What is the Ohio River Basin Alliance?
The Alliance is a collaboration of over 100 partner agencies, groups and associations that includes state, local and federal governments, non-profit entities and NGO’s, industrial partners and academic institutions that all voluntarily work together to discuss their collective interests in the future of water resources in the Ohio River Basin. Water is our most important natural resource and the Ohio River Basin is home to an abundance of this precious asset. The basin encompasses 204,429 square miles and includes over 27 million people and within 15 states. The focus of the Ohio River Basin Alliance is to ensure this valuable resource is sustainable for future generations.
ORBA Members Work to Develop Ohio River Report Card
On December 12-13, representatives from ORBA attended the America’s Watershed Initiative workshop in Covington, KY, to develop a report card on the health of water resources in the Ohio River Basin. Over 50 stakeholders from the basin attended the meeting to help build a report card to address a set of six broad social and environmental goals and to summarize and communicate the status and trends in the context of objectives for each goal. The 6 goals are: (1) maintain supply of abundant clean water, (2) provide reliable flood risk reduction, (3) support local, state and national economies, (4) support and enhance healthy and productive ecosystems, (5) provide world-class recreation opportunities, and (6) serve as the nation’s most valuable river transportation corridor. The Ohio River Basin report card will also be used to develop a report card for the entire Mississippi River Basin. For a final version of the Ohio River Basin report card click here.
Ohio Basin Climate Change Study Modeling Results
A team made up of ORBA members is making progress on the basin’s first climate change study. NOAA’s Ohio River Forecast Center recently completed modeling efforts which show the possible changes to precipitation and drought in the basin due to climate change. In summary, the ensemble climate models suggest the mean, maximum and minimum flows will generally be within the range of history through 2040 except during the autumn season. Beyond 2040 through 2099, increases occur in the mean and maximum flows generally in the 10-40% range with some higher especially in the northern and eastern Ohio Valley and especially in autumn (really from late summer to early winter). Minimum flows decrease in most periods especially heading from 2040 past 2071. Peak spring flood season sees maximum flows increase especially beyond 2040. Autumn season experiences the greatest variability with minimum flows decreasing with time and maximum flows increasing with time (influenced by lower overall typical flows). It also shows that the 1976 to present climate trends are likely to persist through 2040, the autumn increases in maximum flows may enhance early cool season flood events in late autumn/early winter, and spring flooding could worsen beyond 2040. Droughts could lengthen or shift more between spring, summer and autumn beyond 2040, and variability is likely to increase with time. The team is now working to determine the impacts on endangered species and on how might we change the operations of our water infrastructure. For a summary of the modeling results, click here to view the report.
Source Water Collaborative launches Expanded Collaboration Toolkit to Help You Work with Conservation Districts
The Source Water Collaborative recently announced a new online toolkit to facilitate partnerships to protect drinking water sources through agriculture conservation practices, stormwater and forest management. The toolkit offers effective steps source water protection professionals working at the local or state level can take to build partnerships with conservation district staff. The toolkit is designed for a variety of audiences – from those who have never worked with their conservation district, to those who have attempted but without success, to those who would like to enhance their current efforts. Click here to link to the online toolkit. Email SWC if you would like to receive promotional materials (2-page handout and PowerPoint) to help disseminate the toolkit.
Green Waters: The Path to Sustainability
By Melissa Andersen for ORBA
Sustaining the rivers and waterways of our planet is becoming a primary concern for many countries, as wildlife species become depleted and pollution is an overriding factor in fresh and seawaters today. Our awareness and action in sustaining healthy riverbeds is paramount to the survival of wildlife and in the U.S there are initiatives in place that are striving to maintain healthy rivers and coastlines.
Leading the Way
The U.S Water Alliance holds conferences to highlight the importance of water sustainability in various States. The 2012 Conference took place in Cincinnati, Ohio and members met with White House Council leaders on the environment as well as researchers and the EPA to discuss innovation in green infrastructures. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s ‘Clean Lake’ project was one of the programs focused on, as an effective way of reducing the water from storm water systems. Another project, Lick Run, uses properties between streets to apply daylight to a stream and therefore slowing the flow of water into the sewers.
Projects such as these illustrate how the U.S. can use innovation to manage their water systems and create healthier rivers. The U.S. Water Alliance awards a Water Prize each year for the more innovative solution to water pollution and the project that makes the most outstanding achievement in sustainability is celebrated. This year the prize went to Onondaga County’s ‘Save the Rain’ project, which balances storm water technologies with green infrastructure and was created in 2009.
The Freshwater Trust was also a winner of the prize, and this program restores rivers and streams throughout the U.S, whilst creating new avenues for revenue to farmers. The Freshwater Trust works out the ecosystem that is provided naturally and distributes the services to help rivers that are struggling with the environment.
The ORBA Conference enables business, government and non-profit organizations to come together to discuss the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and the critical issues that need addressing to protect these highly valued natural water sources. The Conference is next taking place in Louisville, in conjunction with America’s Watershed Summit, in September 2014.
Protecting Wetlands and Oceans
The Environmental Protection Agency promotes awareness of the need to protect the wetlands, watersheds and oceans around us. We are surrounded by waterways and we need to learn how much our actions affect these areas. Pollution is a significant problem today, on a global scale, and it is only by educating ourselves about how to protect our natural resources that we can reduce the damage being impacted on our rivers and oceans. Wetlands provide the natural habitats for wildlife that are crucial to their survival and pressure on coastlines is growing as the population of people living on the coast increases.
A National Ocean Policy was introduced in 2010, an Executive Order (EO) that listens to the Ocean Policy Task Force and instructs agencies to take measures to improve and sustain the ocean. The Ocean Dumping Act, or MPRSA, was introduced to prevent material being dumped and to better protect the marine life and environment of the ocean. A permit must be obtained for the dumping of any material today, from the MPRSA. Alongside this initiative, discharges from vessels are being better managed by a permit program, which seeks to reduce pollution from military, commercial and recreational vessels. Pollution may be in the form of bilgewater, which is sewage, anti-fouling paints, hazardous material and garbage, which can harm the indigenous species that inhabit the ocean. The cruise ship industry is introducing initiatives to help combat some of these problems. According to Iglu Cruise, the redevelopment of onboard water treatment means that ships are now ‘able to turn their waste water into a product often cleaner than the water that comes out of your tap at home’.
The rivers, wetlands and oceans of the U.S. need protecting through initiatives and partnerships. It is only through education that we learn about how our actions impact on the environment and can seriously damage our natural resources and our wildlife. Alliances such as the Ohio River Basin brings together important bodies, from agencies, researchers, non-profit organizations and academia to problem solve issues that are affecting the waters around us. With continued implementation of programs and through celebrating achievements, we can make a difference and achieve sustainable, green rivers and oceans.
Our new Chair is Dr. Charles “Chuck” Somerville of Marshall University. Dr. Somerville is the Dean of Science at Marshall and brings a wealth of expertise and a love for the Ohio River Basin in leading the committee. At our conference in Louisville, he officially replaced Carolyn Hefner who has been a strong leader in establishing and growing ORBA since its inception in 2009. Thank you Carolyn for your tireless service over the last 4 years!
The 2014-2015 Steering Committee members are:
Dr. Charles “Chuck” Somerville Steinmaus, Chair, Dean
Marshall University College of Science
Mike Steinmaus, Chair, Board of Directors
Appalachian Energy & Environment Partnership
David E. Bailey
Electric Power Research Institute
Manager, Source Water Protection and Emergency Response
Carolyn A. Hefner, Chief of Operations
West Virginia Conservation Agency
Navigation Industry Representative
Martin T. Hettel, Senior Manager of Bulk Sales
AEP River Operations
Engineering Industry Representative
Engineering Industry Representative
Waterways Association Representative
Fred Nyhuis President, Huntington District Waterways Association
Marine Operations Supervisor, Marathon Marine Division
Gerald “Jerry” Sutphin
Visual Information, Ltd.
Dr. Harry Stone, Battelle
Dr. Earl Hanson
National Risk Management Research Laboratory